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Driving Change: A Mid-Year Reflection from Community Progress

July 3, 2024


Dear friends and colleagues,

As we enter the second half of 2024, I want to take a moment to reflect on a few remarkable accomplishments Community Progress achieved in the first six months of this year. My time as President & CEO has been an incredible journey so far, so I hope you’ll join me in celebrating these inspiring wins for community revitalization.

One highlight has been the generous grant of over $1 million from JP Morgan Chase to support our Developers of Color initiative. This initiative, led by our Director of Engagement Odetta Macleish-White, creates opportunities for marginalized local developers and promotes equitable development in underserved communities. I have always said our work is about people, not just properties, and the Developers of Color initiative embodies that. We co-hosted the announcement event in April with the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (where I proudly serve as a member of their Board)—a testament to the power of collaboration and community. For a deeper dive into our partnership with JP Morgan Chase (JPMC), I encourage you to read the coverage by Black Enterprise, which beautifully captures its profound significance.

Our partnership with JPMC is an example of the cross-sector collaboration we will continue to foster. In addition to supporting our Developers of Color initiative, JPMC approached us to request input on to their April 2024 report Tackling Persistent Residential Vacancy, Abandonment, & Disrepair, which advocates for place-based neighborhood development strategies to address vacancy. Nearly all our substantive feedback was incorporated in the final report—including the removal of the word “blight”—and our organization was cited 19 times. We have also been invited to speak with JPMC as they share this report and announce investments in cities across the country. Most recently, I was proud to represent Community Progress as the only national organization at a roundtable discussion with local partners in Baltimore.

Another monumental achievement is the introduction of the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act in the 118th Congress. Spearheaded by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), this bipartisan legislation underscores our commitment to addressing systemic vacancy and property deterioration using the tools available at all levels of government. Our advocacy efforts have been crucial in bringing this legislation to life, and we are honored to have been recognized by Sen. Casey’s office for our work, and the impact this bill will have on neighborhoods across the country.

Policy change is a slow process. But in a powerful reminder of what we can achieve by working together with a shared vision, we saw a tremendous state policy reform victory in Alabama. Our work in Birmingham uplifted the need for a better tool to move deteriorated properties stuck in the code enforcement cycle to new ownership. The City successfully advocated for a change to state law that would open up their ability to use in rem code lien foreclosure, a tool developed by Community Progress in 2019 for the city of Mobile.

Implementing policy and practice changes that address vacancy is an enormous task, and many communities can’t do it alone. That’s why our Technical Assistance team continues to provide local governments with customized, expert guidance that sets communities up for success. In February, we launched a new Technical Assistance scholarship to help cities move to a  more strategic code compliance system alongside the release of our groundbreaking national publication, Reevaluating Code Enforcement: A New Approach to Problem Properties. This publication challenges traditional methods of code enforcement and introduces a strategic compliance approach to address vacancy more equitably, efficiently, and effectively.

One of our longest partnerships is with the City of Detroit. We continue to provide critical support to Detroit, leading transformative projects that promise lasting impacts. This summer, we are finalizing the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s Five-Year Strategic Plan, helping the City with the first comprehensive update of its master plan in 15 years, and helping the City strengthen its rental inspection program to protect tenant health, support responsible landlords, and improve compliance.

Next, our National Land Bank Network (NLBN) launched two initiatives in 2024 to help foster collaboration and innovation in the land banking field. The Rural Land Bank Learning Exchange will bring together the leaders of rural land bank to address their unique challenges, fostering collaboration and innovative solutions. Additionally, NLBN launched the Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program, pairing emerging land bank leaders with experienced mentors to provide much-needed guidance and support.

And finally, our Education, Leadership, and Engagement initiatives are creating opportunities for learning and networking for community revitalization champions at all knowledge and experience levels. We recently launched the fourth cycle of our Community Revitalization Fellowship to help resident-leaders from Lafayette, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and Rochester, New York learn from one another’s grassroots revitalization efforts. This program has helped dozens of community members expand their leadership, commitment, and role in strengthening their neighborhoods. We also wrapped our virtual VAD Academy in June, where nearly 600 participants learned about the fundamentals of dealing with vacant properties at scale.

As we move into the latter half of 2024, there are so many exciting opportunities to connect with Community Progress on the horizon. I am most looking forward to the upcoming Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in St. Louis. This flagship event brings together over 1,000 leaders in community revitalization from across the country and uplifts the people who are fighting to disrupt the cycle of vacancy. This year’s RVP will also kick off our organization’s anniversary celebrations: Community Progress turns fifteen in 2025! We hope to see you there.

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to creating stronger, healthier, and more just communities where all people can thrive. Because of you, we’re able to change the systems to enable local leaders to do what they are called to do: improve the lives of the people they serve. Together, we are driving meaningful change and building a brighter future for all.



Kathleen Jeanette Guillaume-Delemar
President & CEO, Center for Community Progress

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